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Friday, 3 March, 2000, 11:29 GMT
Lying to your doctor

BBC doctor Colin Thomas writes about 'fibbing' patients
Patients consult their doctors - but don't always tell them the full truth, or do exactly what they're told.

I don't know the reason for this, but I suspect that because the NHS is free at the point of delivery its worth is not fully appreciated.

Whenever I've had dealings with lawyers for example, everyone is very reticent to go against their advice.

So what the lawyer says goes, but the doctor - well what does he know?

For example patients don't always finish, or sometimes even start, their medication.

I found this out one weekend when I was summoned to an old lady by her relatives who had been visiting that day.

This old lady had definitely deteriorated, not necessarily medically, but to a point where it was difficult for her to look after herself.

"What tablets is she on?" I asked.

The old lady herself didn't know, or wasn't saying, but she told me they were in the kitchen.

Both me and a relative hunted, and I was startled when I opened a kitchen cupboard door to be inundated with what seemed like hundreds of bottles and boxes of prescription drugs.

These stretched back for many years, and as far as I could see none had ever been touched.

It was instantly clear to me, and indeed to the relatives, that their mother had not been taking the medication that had been prescribed.

I wonder how many other "kitchen pharmacies" like this exist - I suspect many.

Toothy problem

Sometimes of course patients can be too embarrassed to come clean with the truth.

I was the anaesthetist one evening for the hospital emergency admissions.

Normally prior to surgery we would visit the patient first, but with admissions piling up I was stuck in the operating theatre so I had to check the patients as they arrived.


A friendly operating department assistant who was known as a man of few words politely informed me that the patient had still got his false teeth in.

He was right, but I was not used to this because normally by the time they got to me patients were either naturally toothed or gummy.

Having overcome the obstacle of denture cement, his gnashers were out and the intubation went perfectly. I don't know why he didn't tell us about his false teeth.

I suspect he was too embarrassed to tell anyone, but he had managed to fool the ward nurse, theatre sister and me.

Don't forget, little porkies can lead to big trouble.

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